AUBURN — The district attorney received permission last week from the Androscoggin County Commissioners to begin exploring options for a consolidated office in downtown Lewiston.

Currently, the district attorney has offices in the Androscoggin County Courthouse in Auburn and at the District Court building in Lewiston.

The county pays rent for the office space in District Court.

“The goal is to have your blessing to start exploring what the options would be if we were going to try to consolidate our offices,” District Attorney Andrew Robinson said. “It is not to make any commitments on behalf of the county and not to do anything other than be able to develop ideas and recommendations.”

The upcoming switch to a Unified Criminal Docket in Androscoggin County is prompting the need to consolidate the two offices. The UCD was a pilot program that began two years ago in a handful of counties.

The goal of UCD is to streamline the criminal cases for the two-tiered court system — Superior Court and District Court — into a single docket for both felony and misdemeanor charges.

Androscoggin County is scheduled to switch to a UCD beginning in July. All cases will initially begin in Lewiston.

Presently, Superior Court hears all felony cases and any misdemeanors brought over for a jury trial, while District Court gets the remaining misdemeanors.

With the new format, Robinson foresees two issues with having offices in both cities — handling the files and office space.

“You have half your files sitting in Auburn, but everything is happening in Lewiston,” he said. “You now have to move thousands of files across the river. I’m not saying there isn’t a way to do it, but the management of that file system becomes pretty hard to envision.”

Space is another consideration, Robinson said. The DA office is losing some space in the county building that the court had allowed it to use, while the District Court building has no extra space available.

He feels 5,000 square feet of space is required to consolidate the two offices. That’s twice the size of the office at District Court.

Robinson hopes to accomplish the consolidation with little or no added expense to the county. In addition to the $30,000 already allocated in the budget for rent at District Court, Robinson said a new statute allows money in the extradition account, which largely comes from defaulted bail, to also be used to pay for witness fees before being turned over to the state’s general fund.

That would free up funds already set aside for witness fees in the DA’s budget.

Robinson plans to check with realtors to see what is available and get estimates on office space near the courthouse on Lisbon Street. 

“We’re trying to avoid hauling files down icy sidewalks, across snow, across bridges, needing something to transport the files,” Robinson said. “We’re trying to avoid all of that.” 

The commissioners will have the final say on any potential move.

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